Forgetfulness

1 10 2019

PPT is wondering about the “forgetfulness” that characterizes post-2014 Thailand.

Our wondering was partly prompted by Pithaya Pookaman, a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel. One issue is the awful standover man/MP/Minister/fraudster/former heroin trafficker/purveyor of fake degrees Thammanat Prompao. He’s gone very quiet and we assume that a bigger boss than him has told him to shut up. The advice is probably that quietness will see all that “trouble” dissolve. We previously mentioned that he would probably get away with his lies and deceit. He’s powerful, influential and well-connected. How many countries have convicted drug traffickers as ministers? But his sins can be “forgotten.”

Pithaya refers to “the farcical election in March 2019 that laundered the authoritarian power of the military junta under [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] into a shaky and unwieldly 19-party coalition…”. But what happened to the complaints about the election and the toadies at the Election Commission? Is that best forgotten? For the junta and its new regime, it probably is, but it seems stealing an election is not an offense when done by the military in 2019.

He also reckons that “the political conflict in Thailand is not between … the rich and the poor.” How quickly the basic facts are forgotten. We recall Amartya Sen’s confusing rhetoric on this, perhaps better forgotten. And it may be easily forgotten that back in 2007, per capita provincial GDP for the provinces that voted for the Democrat Party were more than 220,000 baht. For those voting for the People Power Party was just over 90,000 baht. It seems to us that those who gain most from electoral politics are those with the least.

Somyot and his money (or someone’s money)

Meanwhile, as China celebrates its nationhood, it was only a few days ago that Song Tao, the head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee met with Gen Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It should not be forgotten that they reportedly “agreed to enhance cooperation between ruling parties for further development of bilateral ties.” Ruling parties…

Then there’s the long forgotten raid on the high-class Victoria’s Secret brothel. In recent days “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates [have been] calling on … Prayut[h] to look into a controversial decision to drop human trafficking charges against key suspects in last year’s Victoria’s Secret brothel crackdown.”

This involved underage women, including “services such as sex with virgin girls for which it charged customers as much as 100,000 baht as it was a ‘high demand service’…”.

The report remembers that “[f]ormer national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung last year admitted that he had borrowed “around 300 million baht” from [brothel owner] Kampol [Wirathepsuporn], whom he described as a friend.” It forgets to say that nothing at all has happened about Somyot’s corruption, his relationship with a sex trafficker and unusual wealth. Well, only unusual for regular people, not senior police who are mostly on the take and become seriously wealthy. Of course, Somyot was a big junta supporter and servant.

And, of course, there’s lots that is conveniently forgotten and some that’s forgotten because a lot of people are fearful of the power of military, monarchy, tycoons and other varieties of influential people.

There’s the case of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a kid shot and killed by the military and where that military has actively thwarted investigation.

Then there’s the bodies floating in the river, the disappeared anti-junta anti-monarchy activists, including men extradited to Thailand who simply disappeared. Can they really be forgotten?

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Related, there’s the king. Do people really forget his missing missus? Do they forget the missing plaque and the missing monument commemorating the defeat of royalists?

But let’s not forget the protesters murdered by the military and never adequately investigated, in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010 (to mention just a few of the military’s murderous efforts).

There’s so much forgetfulness that any rational observer could only conclude that it isn’t forgetting but lying, covering up, maintaining impunity and great fear.

 

 





With two updates: Junta politics of influence, dark influence and murder

25 09 2019

A quick look at the English-language newspapers over the last day or so suggests that there’s more than a little poor journalism going on.

One was the report that “the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP)-led consortium, winner of the bid to build the 224-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three airports, will be told to sign the contract on Oct 15 or face a fine for failing to honour the terms of the bid.” That “ultimatum was decided upon … at a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who oversees the Transport Ministry, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, senior transport officials and the chief of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office.”

PPT has no brief for the Sino-Thai tycoons at CP, but we would have thought that someone at the Bangkok Post might have recalled that Anutin’s family are the major shareholders in CP competitor Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction. Perhaps it might have also been useful to note that the Chidchob family, Anutin and his father have been political bedmates for over a decade.

While on Sino-Thai tycoons, the Post reported that Viroj and Samrerng Suknamai, the parents of “former beauty queen and actress Nusara Suknamai,” have “filed a lawsuit with the civil court on Monday, demanding 300 million baht in compensation plus a 7.5% interest from the manager of Vichai’s estate and the King Power Duty Free company, which is owned by the tycoon’s family.” Nusara “died on Oct 27 in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester…”. When all of the eulogies were for Vichai, at the time of the accident, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan was in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He correctly identified her “the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… [of the so-called] family man [Vichai]…”. The report does indicate that the fabulously wealthy King Power lot have been pretty tight-fisted in dealing with the “other woman.”

The ruling class’s military-backed regime is anything but tight-fisted when it comes to buying support. Puea Thai Party chief strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan claims to have “an audio clip that would show that Phalang Pracharat had tried to lure …[14] Pheu Thai MPs by offering to pay them certain benefits.” Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan denied this. But no one should believe Gen Prawit. He’s got form on this, having bought up former pro-Thaksin MPs all over the country before the election. That included heroin trafficker and standover man Thammanat Prompao. Now, Gen Prawit needs “to prop up the government’s slim majority.” This wheeling and dealing is expensive and leads to all kinds of policies that are designed simply to raise money for political shenanigans. The media should be more active in pointing out that it is the military junta’s constitution that (re)created the capacity for such political corruption.

While considering the military junta’s corruption, look to the report that the “Parliament’s Anti-Corruption Committee is gathering evidence in a fact-finding probe against Public Relations Department chief Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd over accusations that he verbally and in writing ordered his subordinates to spread information allegedly helping the Palang Pracharat Party ahead of the March 24 national elections and attacking a former prime minister and his party.” Remarkably, the junta government’s former spokesman thinks that like a heroin smuggler, he can simply deny: “Sansern argued that he had never taken sides…”. Back when the junta moved Lt Gen Sansern to his position, the Bangkok Post observed that Sansern was in place to “control all government-run media and enforce censorship rules in the lead-up to the expected 2019 election.” While denying everything, Sansern ran back to the boss: “Sansern said he had briefed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha about the case.” Of course he has.

And speaking of corruption, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is ever so careful when dealing with its masters the government. A report at The Nation advises that Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives from Anutin’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, Mananya Thaiset – yes, in there with Thammanat – “has not yet submitted her declaration of assets and debts to the anti-graft body within the required time frame…”. While the law requires all to declare their assets, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon “said officials … would gather information regarding the matter and consider issuing a letter to Mananya requiring her to provide her reason for failing to file.” It gets worse as the NACC tiptoes around its masters: “If the NACC decided Mananya was required to submit the declaration, the NACC secretariat will issue a letter to notify her accordingly…”.

Back when the political dealing was in full swing, the Bangkok Post had a source who observed the obvious: “Because it receives a big budget, the ministry [of agriculture] can be used as a political tool…”. Money can be made, voters influenced and parties supported.And, as we know from the Thammanat case, “influential persons” get these positions because they are the party wheeler-dealers. And, Mananya is from a family of chao phor and chao mae. Not that long ago, her brother, Chada Thaiset, also a Bhum Jai Thai MP for Uthai Thani declared “I am an influential person.” Back in 2015 it was reported that. like Thammanat, Chada was considered a “dark influence”:

Crime suppression Division (CSD) police officers and commandos yesterday raided 11 locations belonging to alleged influential figures in Uthai Thani’s Muang and Sawang Arom districts.

Most of the targeted premises were those of former or local politicians. They included the house of former Chart Thai Pattana Party MP Chada Thaiset and a resort building under the care of Chada’s nephew.

The 200-strong “Yutthakan Sakaekrang” operation … seized 20 guns, four bullet-proof vests, two tiger skins, two pairs of wildlife horns and a clouded leopard carcass.

… the operation was part of the Royal Thai Police’s policy to suppress crime, crack down on influential figures and hired guns.

Then in 2017, it was reported that:

A former MP and four members of his entourage were released on bail on Sunday after being detained overnight for carrying firearms in public without permission.

Chada Thaiseth, a former Uthai Thani MP, reportedly has been on an official list of mafia-style figures.

More than 100 policemen, both in uniform and plainclothes, intercepted his convoy on a road in Uthai Thani province on Saturday afternoon.

Chada’s group was driving as many as eight vehicles and a search found several guns and illicit drugs in the cars.

A pattern? You bet.

Turning to the other side of politics, Khaosod reports that Nawat Tohcharoensuk, a Puea Thai politician was found guilty of “engineering the murder of a civil servant” and was “sentenced to death on Tuesday … [but] will continue serving as an MP for the opposition, his party said.” He’s appealing the verdict, so the case is not over, but even so, it might be considered prudent for him to step down. But with gangsters in the government, the opposition has them too. And a bit of reading suggests the modus operandi of a dark influence:

Prosecutors said Nawat hired two police officers to gun down Suchart Khotethum, an administrative official in Khon Kaen, in front of his home in 2013. Investigators cited romance-related vendetta as the motive.

And, just to finish off with state violence of the military kind, we see the remarkable report that “four red-shirt co-leaders on Monday … confessed to their roles in the violent protest outside the home of the late Privy Council president, Prem Tinsulanonda, in 2007.” Perhaps they confessed to get the case settled? Perhaps a deal has been done? We can’t help but wonder because Nattawut Saikua said:

he and fellow red-shirt co-leaders offered their apologies because the protest outside Gen Prem’s residence caused injuries among both protesters and police officers on duty.

“We are sorry for what happened,” he said, before insisting the red-shirt co-leaders harboured no grudge with the late Gen Prem.

No grudge? Why’s that? He was one of those who perpetrated the 2006 coup and egged the military on in 2014. He supported crackdowns on red shirts that resulted in deaths and injuries to thousands. He dis this for the military-monarchy alliance that underpins the ruling class. With all the royalist buffalo manure that surrounds this creepy general, there’s no criticism allowed. No one has asked about his unusual wealth, revealed when he finally died.

What a week it has been for a political system designed by the military junta.

Update 1: Legal eel and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam declared Nawat’s “tenure as an MP was now voided, even though the appeal process was not finalised…”. He said the “constitution stated clearly that MPs lost their status when convicted of a criminal offence.” While we think Nawat should step down and while Wissanu picks and chooses which aspects of the constitution he adheres to, we are not so sure he’s right on this. All sections in the constitution relating to convictions refer to final judgements. Indeed, Article 29 offers a general protection to those in the legal process, stating:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

Despite this, and the fact that “appeal is automatic in the case of a death sentence,” the House Secretariat is advising a ruling from the Constitutional Court. Of course, the judgement of that Court will probably follow Wissanu.

Meanwhile, in another case of twisted ethics (see those above), the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is “likely to field Krungsrivilai Suthinpuak in a potential by-election despite the Election Commission (EC) having issued him with a yellow-card for attempted vote-buying.”

The junta’s 5 years seems to have yielded an administration of goons and crooks.

Update 2: Being ever so gentle and flexible with junta party allies, the NACC has decided that Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset “must declare her assets and liabilities despite her insistence she is under no obligation to do so.” But she’s forgiven for “interpreting” the law incorrectly and can take longer to get her assets list in order before submitting it. Can anyone imagine such leniency for the other side of politics? Of course not. The Post believes Mananya is known “for spearheading a mission to ban toxic farm chemicals.” We think they are gilding it. She’s best known for being from a family of dark influences.

Chada Thaiseth’s convoy stopped by more than uniformed and plainclothes police on a road in Uthai Thani province in 2017. Clipped from The Nation.





Updated: Oafs and oaths

4 09 2019

We note that the military-backed regime has decided that it will allow a “debate” in parliament on the un/anti-constitutional oath “sworn” by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

That “debate” will be for a full day on the day before parliament takes a break.

Unelected Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, responsible for organizing the Palang Pracharath Party, the stolen election and much more shady dealing has tried to rule out “debate” on the real issue associated with the oath. That is, who was it who ordered that this un/anti-constitutional oath be sworn.

Gen Prawit babbled: “One day is enough. It is not a sensitive issue…”. But then he contradicted himself while demanding silence on the truth:

He did not mind if the debate went behind closed doors or not, but MPs should refrain from any speech that might concern an institution…. Gen Prawit said he expected the oath issue to be concluded in the parliament and not to be raised outside.

In other words, using a Thai neologism, Gen Prawit is declaring that the role of the king in this un/anti-constitutional episode when many believe the monarch is probably responsible. He also seeks to prevent any other discussion of the issue.

By doing this, Gen Prawit is more or less confirming that King Vajiralongkorn is responsible. If he wasn’t, then a snafu could have been declared and the whole matter resolved quickly. When the king is involved, it all gets more complicated and more sinister.

Update: Gen Prayuth has now made the outrageous claim that “his oath-taking in the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, saying he acted in compliance with the constitution.” Except that he didn’t. We suppose lying is not also unconstitutional. But never mind, that lie is probably a bit like the un/anti-constitutional oath in that he has “nothing to worry about because his intentions were pure.” Right…





Updated: Military party, Mafia party

22 07 2019

The military’s Palang Pracharath Party was formed by the junta to ensure that it could continue in power following the “election” it rigged, but only just “won” after having its puppet Election Commission tinker with the results after the “election.”

The junta has engaged in a long and childish charade, seeking to suggest that its party was somehow “independent” or distant from the junta. No one ever believed the junta on this. First, several of the junta’s cabinet ministers combined to found the party, filching and poaching “members” from other parties and by soaking up several well-known crooked politicians and dark influences. Second, several junta cabinet members then “founded” the party, resigning from the cabinet to do so. This was just weeks before the “election,” conducted under the junta’s crooked rules. Third, The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was the party’s candidate for prime minister and was then “elected,” thanks to the junta-appointed Senate that “voted” for Gen Prayuth as a bloc.

Now, the power behind the the junta’s throne, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his lot in with the party:

After years of serving as the public face of the now-defunct junta, deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan is reportedly ready to try his hand at party politics.

Gen. Prawit, who until recently headed the defense ministry, will “soon” join the pro-military Phalang Pracharath Party, a source said Monday. The retired general will also secure a seat in the party’s executive board according to the source, who is one of Gen. Prawit’s close aides.

Gen Prawit met with his sidekicks, buddies and underlings in the party in Nakorn Ratchasima province as they schemed further on what parliament might mean for the party and for the junta-like cabinet. Prawit was ebullient, praising the junta hangers-on:

I appreciate the executive committee’s recognition of the importance of fellow members of the Palang Pracharat Party, especially MPs… This seminar boosts love and unity among the members of our party and our family….

That family includes the criminal. And we don’t mean the military that has murdered dozens of citizens, but the dark influences like Thammanat Prompao.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Update: In another report, Gen Prawit is portrayed as behaving very much like a party boss in his meeting with Palang Pracharath MPs in Korat. He called for party unity and declared that the “new” government would see out its full term. More interestingly, he also acted like the Deputy Dictator when he added: “I’ll try to ensure that the government completes its term…”. It was Prawit who ensured the junta continued through intense repression of political opponents. That’s a pointer to a bleak future.





Updated: On elections

18 07 2019

Readers might be interested in a report by Focus on the Global South:

In the first half of 2019, a great deal of global attention focused on national elections in three countries where authoritarian regimes or personalities were in command of the state: Thailand, the Philippines, and India. The big question was: would voters buck the authoritarian trend or affirm it? When the dust settled, the electorates in the three countries had delivered striking, if somewhat divergent results, between Thailand on the one hand and the Philippines and India on the other.This study seeks to shed some light on the electoral outcomes in the three countries by examining the national situation leading up to the elections, understanding the results of the elections by situating them within the dynamics of the broader political process in each country, and engaging in a comparative analysis of the electoral and broader political processes in the three countries, drawing out similarities and differences.

On Thailand it concludes: “In Thailand, the overriding task is how to change an electoral system that hems in and constrains democratic choice with institutions and procedures that are implicitly backed by the firepower of the army.”

Update: Readers might also be interested in two report – a shorter one in English and a longer Thai-language report on the 2019 “election” from P-Net. One of its comments is on the decrepit performance of the puppet Election Commission:

P-NET’s observers are very much unhappy with the ECT’s administration especially the inactive performance of 7 commissioners and their lack of courage (fear) on issuing the yellow and orange tickets to certain candidates in several constituencies in regions before the polling day. ECT could not control the partiality of the government officials to stay neutral, not to support the ruling party and the incumbent PM in their campaigns.





With 3 updates: No government

2 07 2019

It is now more than three months since Thailand’s voters went to the polls. There’s still no government in place and the military junta continues to rule.

It might have been thought that a strong performance by an elected opposition would be the main threat to the junta and its proposed government. Or it might have been felt that, once formed, a junta-backed government would be riven by conflicts within a coalition of almost 20 “parties.”

In fact, at the moment, the real “struggle” and threat to the junta’s formation of a government – assuming it wants one – is from within the party it formed, Palang Pracharath.

The details are murky but becoming public. The men who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up candidates for the junta are flexing their considerable muscle, blaming Party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong for causing splits within the Party:

In the June 11 lineup, core Sam Mitr leader and party-list MP Suriya Jungrungreangkij was tipped to be the energy minister. Another core leader of the group, party-list MP Somsak Thepsutin, was promised the justice portfolio and group member Chai Nat MP Anucha Nakasai was to be a deputy finance minister.

But more changes were made later, reportedly to accommodate seats for the Chart Pattana Party, for Don Pramudwinai to continue as the foreign minister and to allow a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to control all key economic ministries. The changes resulted in Mr Suriya being moved to be industry minister while Mr Anucha’s name was no longer on the list.

Explosions are continuing. For the abnormally quiet Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the result has been a groveling “apology” for being unable to form a cabinet and a government. His spokesman stated: “the Prime Minister will perform his duty to the best of his ability, even though there may be some problems in the party’s internal administration, as it is a newly formed party with members from many backgrounds.” It seems that the junta has failed on just about everything it has done, except for its political repression.

Where to now?

Update 1: The answer to that last question seems to come from Gen Prayuth when he appears to threaten another coup.

Update 2: Shaken by public criticism and probably military and junta unhappiness, two of the three amigos who put the Party together, now say they will be good and abide by Gen Prayuth’s decisions on his cabinet lineup. Let’s see if they got what they demanded as this statement should now allow a cabinet to be put in place. But, who knows? Others may now be upset and demanding.

Update 3: Khaosod has more on Gen Prayuth’s coup threat and the reaction to it.





Shaky regime IV

25 06 2019

It is possible that the junta and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are simply not interested in convening a government or cabinet. Or it might be that the regime, despite all of its efforts is simply unable to do either.

At present, three months after the junta’s “election,” Gen Prayuth seems more or less invisible. What’s he doing or – more to the point – what is he not doing?

Around him, political grenades are going off. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the anti-democrat Democrat Party are in dispute. And it is a personalized dispute. And other coalition “partners” are grumbling that promises are being broken.

Meanwhile, junta lackey Wissanu Krea-ngam says the process is moving on, with “background checks had begun for those chosen to be cabinet members.” He grumbled that eligibility is being checked “according to the law and general suitability.”

Does that mean no crooks? That hardly seems likely in a huge coalition of crooks and anti-democrats.

Speaking of crooks, is anyone keeping count of the number of huge contracts being heaved out to junta friends in this supposedly interim period.